Top junior to take next step
ROCKHAMPTON tennis is set to lose one of its brightest talents with junior tennis superstar Mitchell Harper set to move south either boarding or possibly with his family.
The 14-year-old champion, who has rarely been away from the winners' circle both in Central Queensland and at state championships, sees the move as a great opportunity to progress his sporting career.
The pinnacle for young Harper, so far, was reached recently when he was named to play at Melbourne in the Australian Team Championships.
An excited Harper, who is the rankings at No.10, admits he doesn't know for certain who he will face in Melbourne.
"I've not seen the other teams yet," he said.
"It is probably my highlight being named in the team. When I was in Brisbane recently the people from the national academy let me know (of selection)."
Harper is coached by the experienced Robert Beak, who said the championship, in a couple of weeks, offered more than a few games of tennis.
He said the players also received the benefit of being assisted by some of the top coaches on the Australian scene.
"Mark Draper will be coaching when the games are on court," Beak said.
"He talks to the players at change of ends."
Following the championship, Harper will play in the national championships which are also staged in Melbourne.
Harper was recently named player of the year at the State Junior Masters in Rockhampton and is also looking forward to the change of scenery when he makes the move to Brisbane.
"It will be a chance for me to be a part of tougher competitions. There is more depth," he said.
While Harper is in the top handful of players in the state for his age group, the pressure to retain that ranking means he needs regular competition against highly ranked players.
The move will also cut family travel costs as even a local session at Victoria Park means a run in by car from the family home at Yeppoon.
Beak is obviously disappointed to lose one of his star pupils but is keen to see Harper's career progress and, importantly, stay injury free.
Over the years he has seen the young star develop as a player but admits it is more than his tennis ability that has impressed.
"He's very good above the shoulders," the coach said.
"He also has the ability to work out his opponent and he is mentally strong."
However, Beak believes Harper's move to Brisbane will test the young player.
"I think time will tell - he needs to see how things go," he said.
"In those first six months anything can happen. He will gain better experience and also a bit of independence.
"In tennis you have to be single-minded and retain your focus."
One thing both Harper and Beak are hoping for the young player during the next six months is that he goes through a growing spell so that he can remain competitive with physically more powerful players.